The Best Hiking Shoes for Your Next Adventure

Introduction

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What kind of shoes you choose to wear for hiking depend on your choice. However, different hiking shoes are made for different purposes and it is important to choose carefully, especially if you are going to have a challenging hike. Hiking shoes are perfect options for those who do not have a heavy backpack. They offer stiffness and medium support for your feet. Some hiking shoes have a waterproof lining that protects you from streams or mud without getting a soaker. If you use your tennis shoes to go for a hike, it will stay wet and heavy under the same conditions. However, if you use it mostly in the warm weather or the summer, lightweight and well-ventilated shoes with numerous of mesh will let your feet to breathe more easily. Most sporting stores have wide selections of hiking shoes; you can try it on before decide which one is the best for you.

There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 5 of the very best options.

**Below, you will find more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon.

What to look for in the best hiking shoes?

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Material

Your hiking shoes need to be able to withstand the weather and the conditions of the terrain while providing comfort and good support on a day hike with a moderate backpack. Compared to hiking boots, hiking shoes are flexible and lighter. It is because they are made from different materials.

The main material of high-quality hiking shoes is nubuck leather, a type of cattle leather that has been sanded on the outside. It’s resistant to abrasion and water, provide lesser durability but have greater flexibility than full-grain leather. Suede leather is another option for you because shoes made from this type of leather is softer and more flexible.

Hiking shoes are sometimes made of leather with a combination of mesh outer material. The disadvantage of this mesh side panel is that it is not as strong as leather, but it is more breathable and significantly lighter for your feet. Nonetheless, it is important to note that, while they can be much lighter on your feet, they will not offer much support at the end of a long day hike.

Waterproofing

While a waterproof hiking shoe is a great option in wet and cold conditions, they can be counterproductive in hot weather. Therefore, whether you choose a waterproofing shoe depends on the type of hiking you want to do the most. Waterproofing shoe is more likely to add heat to your feet when you go hiking, but it also suitable for all locations and seasons.

Shoes are made from leather are naturally waterproof and will protect you from all the elements: cold, rain and snow. However, they need to be coated with some treatments before use. The disadvantage of leather shoes is that it is less breathable, that is why leather shoes normally have a textile mesh panel for air flow.

The most popular material for waterproof shoes is Gore-Tex. It is a material that can provide waterproofing with breathability, keeping your feet drier than other materials.

Support and cushioning

Hiking shoes need to have enough support and cushioning to keep your feet comfortable in all type of terrains. One of the methods hiking shoes provide cushioning is through the insole. It is the removable lining in the hiking shoes and often made of ethylene vinyl acetate.

While a good hiking shoe provides substantial protection, the addition of a good insole can make a big difference to your foot comfort. Some people need arch and heel support and some people want cushioned insoles and for those who want to add warmth, there are heated insoles.

There are two main types of insoles: comfort insole and sports insole. The best comfort insoles are made of foam or gel; it offers more rigid fit and focuses on providing support. The best sports insoles are usually made of harder material since they need to provide more stability and focuses on shock absorption. If you are a first-time buyer, you might want to visit the store and try different types of insoles to see which ones fit your feet best.

In addition, the layer between the base of the shoe and the insole, known as the midsole, is also made of special material to help absorb shock when you’re hiking. Midsole have an important part in providing support for your arches and heels.

Product Reviews – The Best Hiking Shoes

1. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX

The North Face may describe The Ultra 109 GTX as trail running shoes but it has all quality for a lightweight hiker. The North Face Ultra 109 GTX has a stable form, excellent all-around traction and good foot protection. They ensure your toes and the bottom of your feet is protected from injury if you run into an uneven terrain.

They also have a snake plate forefoot which is great because it can protect your feet. The midsole made from compression-molded EVA which provides the support and comfort for day hiking and backpacking trips. Their upper sections have a leather material with the addition of mesh reinforced with a thermoplastic urethane overlay and it is waterproof to withstand all types of conditions. It also features a breathable membrane ensure weather protection.

The North Face Ultra 109 GTX is quite heavy compared to others trail runners these days; however, it supportive enough to remain comfortable through your day’s activities. They can take on right about any purpose. For example, if you want to go for a hike in the Garden of the Gods in the spring, The Ultra 109 GTX is a good option. They are functional and safe in both dirty and muddy grounds.


Pros

  • Extra toe protection
  • Great do-everything shoe, comfortable
  • Thick and solid sole
  • Good Traction

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Wears Quickly

2. Keen Targhee 2

Keen Targhee 2 is ideal shoes for beginners. It provides a stable, stiff shoe that can help you feel comfortable when traversing all kinds of terrain. From the removable dual density ethylene vinyl acetate footbed to the ankle collar, these shoes provide a great cushion for long hikes. Keen Targhee 2 takes shock from the ground and helps distribute it evenly across your foot.

The cushioned cuff reaches to the ankle; it is thick and padded and offers ankle support, protects it from bumps and bruises. Although it is made of leather, this product can still breathe exceptionally well. As the result, you can wear them at summer times with no major concern. Therefore, you can use Keen Targhee 2 to go for a short hike to the wisdom tree in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. This trail has tremendous views and takes only two hours to get to the Wisdom tree.

The lacing system has three lower, one in the middle, and one upper locking eyelet. This provides a secure lock on the laces. Therefore, even if your bow comes untied, it will still keep your foot super stable on uneven ground. However, it is made of fabric and fabric eyelets are not the strongest way to provide lace system support.


Pros

  • Good traction and great foot support
  • Patented toe box protection
  • Great ankle support
  • Minimal break-in period

Cons

  • Lace eyelets are made of fabric

3. Salomon X Ultra 2

Salomon X Ultra 2 is a very lightweight shoe with just 1 pounds 11 ounces for the pair. However, they are built extremely well with stability, traction, and protection needed for quick summits, day hikes and lightweight overnights. In addition, it also has Quicklace system which can be tightened by a single pull.

Salomon X Ultra 2 is built on an injection-molded EVA midsoles and trusty Contragrip rubber which helps you to be more comfortable, footed and confident in all types of terrain. The soles are flexible enough to engage with the terrain but firm enough for you to feel the stone.

Mud guards and integrated rubber toe caps adds the right level of protection for the foot from most rocks on the trail. In addition, it features an upper made of abrasion-resistant nylon with Gore-Tex lining. As the result, it offers great water-resistance and good breathability.


Pros

  • Lightweight, stable, comfortable
  • A tougher build than other lightweight shoes.
  • Have Quicklace system

Cons

  • Not ideal for wide feet

4. Merrell Moab Waterproof

Merrell Moab Waterproof is well made, reasonably light and best for easy and relatively flat trails. It is flexible and thus not an ideal shoe for carrying heavy backpacking, traversing technical terrain like go for a hike in Garden of Eden Trail or long and steep climbs.

Merrell Moab has an upper made of a synthetic material with leather overlays to increase durability. It provides more structure and reduces the risk of rolling an ankle. The lining below the upper is equipped with a special coating which helps prevent water from entering the shoe. However, it doesn’t offer as good moisture-management and breathability as other shoes.

The shoe is equipped with EVA midsoles and heel air pods that can absorb shock and cushion feet. The tread pattern or Vibram rubber offers decent all-around traction over dirt and rock.


Pros

  • Inexpensive, well made
  • Lightweight, comfortable

Cons

  • Average traction in rock and mud.

5. The North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX

The North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX works well for hiking for rough terrain and it has foot support for carrying medium backpacking. However, it takes time to break in compared to other shoes.

The North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX is well made and equipped with dual-density, compression-molded EVA midsoles with Cradle Guide™ platform. It provides better-than-average foot support. In addition, the Gore-Tex liner protects the feet perfectly and keeps it stays dry all the time.

The North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX has a classic lacing system, but it allows you to adjust more convenient and it fits the ankle better than other shoes.


Pros

  • Lightweight, all-around traction
  • Stable feel, solid midsole and heel cup

Cons

  • Break-in period required
  • Laces are durable but slippery

Choosing the Best Hiking Shoes for Your Next Adventure

Sometimes, you might want to trek to the camping spot then switch to lightweight shoes for short day hikes. Therefore, it is not easy to find the best hiking shoes that can meet all your needs.

If price is not a concern, you should get at least 2 pairs. If your budget doesn’t allow it, you need to decide which type of hiking you want to do the most and start from there.

Take all the time you need to find the right shoe pair for you because there are a lot of manufacturers and lines to choose from. The best time to shop for hiking shoes is when they’ve reached the full size, which is evening.

In addition, you might want to ignore size numbers and choose a shoe that feels right for your foot size. Don't buy any shoes if a narrow toe box cramps your toes. Your toes should have enough room at all time. Remember to try the hiking shoes with the socks you are likely to be wearing when hiking.

James G. Craig
 

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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